While becoming a Badly Battered Babysitter
may be an adult's worst nightmare, having a Babysitter from Hell
is a child's.
In Real Life
, child abuse by a temporary or hired guardian is a very serious thing. But in fiction, it can be comedy gold. It's also a good way to give a character a Dark and Troubled Past
that's only just dark enough
, without making the parents out to be bad. A common fate of characters with a Hilariously Abusive Childhood
This villain type is always introduced the same way: parents need someone to care for their children. Often, possibly because either a parent or child has a bad reputation, short notice or bad timing (who'd have thought they'd schedule the high school prom and the elementary school PTA meeting on the same night?), the parents are left with few choices.
Only after the parents leave is the Babysitter from Hell revealed
for what they are. Usually this character can be identified by at least three of the following traits or behaviors:
- Children are frightened of them. Hilarity Ensues as adults take little notice of a child's instinctive concern, being either too busy or assuming it's just ordinary separation anxiety.
- The babysitter is impatient, angsty, or just plain mean.
- The babysitter clearly has little experience in dealing with children of the age in question.
- The babysitter assigns the child a task or responsibility that is clearly inappropriate.
- The child is assigned all the chores while the babysitter chats on the phone, watches TV or otherwise refuses to help.
- The babysitter puts the child in a situation that is obviously dangerous, unhealthy, or frightening, such as locking them in the basement.
- When the child gets in trouble, is at risk of serious injury, or asks for help, the babysitter ignores them.
- The babysitter uses the parents' home to throw a party or conduct criminal activities. If the babysitter uses the children to commit a crime, they might be The Fagin.
- The babysitter deliberately makes the child miserable out of angst, revenge, etc., or For the Evulz.
To meet the requirements for this trope, all of the following must be true:
With no support from adults
- A character is hired or otherwise entrusted with a child.
- They end up doing more harm than good.
- They get away with it repeatedly.
, the child is usually forced to take unilateral action to either foil or prank the babysitter. When the parents return, either the Babysitter from Hell
has already left or blames anything the parents find amiss on the child. Since the parents usually don't believe the child, the threat that they will be back remains.
This is a villain type where on the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness
the Babysitter from Hell
can range from Complete Monster
, to a Jerkass Woobie
with a Dark and Troubled Past
of their own, and Alternate Character Interpretation
may allow some to be regarded as both.
The inversion of this trope is Badly Battered Babysitter
. If you have a case where this trope is subverted, check Badly Battered Babysitter
to see if it goes there first.
Film: Live Action
Film: Western Animation
- In Annie, the musical, orphanage manager Miss Hannigan.
- The elderly Mrs. Sturak from Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead wasted no time establishing herself as one of these. It's no wonder the kids didn't exactly mourn her passing.
- Elizabeth/Zee from Monster House.
- In The Rescuers, Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops need Penny to help them retrieve a diamond at the bottom of a cave too small for an adult to fit into. The cave is prone to flooding whenever the tide comes in, but Medusa in particular doesn't care as long as Penny gets the diamond. Oh, and they actually kidnapped her from an orphanage for this.
- The unnamed babysitter for Georgia and Shaun in Feed. She decides that Georgia doesn't really need her sunglasses and tosses them out into the backyard, making the twins search for them. Important detail: this is after the Zombie Apocalypse and zombies are still shambling around everywhere.
- The Berenstain Bears may have an example of this in "The Sitter." There's also a subversion where Mama and Papa Bear go on a vacation and leave the kids with their grandparents. They think they're in for a hell of boredom, but the grandparents turn out to be great fun.
- In On Writing, Stephen King relates a story from his childhood: a babysitter named Buelah (or maybe Eulah)—who liked to sit on his head and fart—fed Little Stevie most of a dozen eggs, then locked him in a closet while she fell asleep. His mother was unimpressed, especially since he threw up in her good shoes.
- Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane has Ursula Monkton, a babysitter who is actually a low-level Eldritch Abomination. She compels the protagonist's father to abuse him and have an affair with her, and has even worse things planned if he keeps disobeying.
- Miss Andrew from the Mary Poppins series is so conceited and verbally abusive, Mr. Banks refers to her as, "a Holy Terror!"
- Mild instance in FlashForward (2009), with the babysitter making out with her guy while the child in her care is upstairs asleep, right before the blackout.
- Everybody Hates Chris has the "Everybody Hates The Babysitter" episode in which the babysitter won't stay in the house.
- A bloodcurdling example occurs on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation when the team finds a little boy's corpse in a garbage bag. They discover that the little boy was one of three brothers staying with a prostitute who happened to be their mother's cousin. The prostitute locked all three of them in the basement of the shed in her backyard, and when one of them died she simply got one of her johns to put the body into a garbage bag and hide it in someone else's trash. The hooker claims that her cousin simply dumped the boys on her without leaving any money to pay for feeding them. Brass later discovers that the boys' mother did in fact give her hooker cousin $300...and as Brass put it "that skanky bitch went out and bought a new TV!" The CSI team eventually find the two surviving boys in the basement of the hooker's shed, and they're both close to death. Brass quite bluntly threatens the prostitute with the warning that, if either of them dies, he's going to do everything in his power to make sure she gets the death penalty.
- This is also Nick's backstory - he was molested by his babysitter as a boy.
- Played with in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, when Malcolm is hired to babysit at a wealthy household. He later finds a secret panel in the wall with a nanny cam and videotapes of him doing minor things like taking too much food. He decides to teach the family a little lesson by making it look like he's going to put their expensive fish in a blender, and instead gives a lecture on trust before disabling the camera.
- Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes thinks his babysitter, Rosalyn, is this, but from her viewpoint, she's fending off becoming a Badly Battered Babysitter. Then in her last appearance, a game of Calvinball brings them together, averting both tropes.
- In the original Little Orphan Annie comic, the original orphanage manager, Miss Asthma, and her partner in crime, Mrs. Bottle, make Miss Hannigan seem saintly in comparison.
- The Far Side has a strip in which the parents come home and find that the witch they hired cooked and ate not one, but both children.
- Rat proved himself to be the absolute worst babysitter imaginable in the Baby Blues-Pearls Before Swine crossover strip: Here's a rundown of what happened, he agrees to doing everything Wanda and Darryl ask of him, and as soon as they leave, prepares to waste himself with shots of Tequila (and started wearing a beer hat). He then has Zoe and Hammie go out to a package and liquor store to get more bottles of tequila (note: Zoe and Hammie, are incredulously too young to drive, never mind below the age limit of purchasing alcohol, so he's risking their being potentially arrested and doing time at a Juvenile correction facility for driving below the age limit, underage purchasing of alcohol, and possession of alcohol while driving just to get himself drunk yet again, at the very least). Predictably, it goes as badly as possible, with Hammie apparently wrecking their parent's minivan, which also caused a gas station to explode, and apparently they accidentially ran over Jeremy from Zits, and his reaction was horror that their liquor run was delayed. Likewise, he left Wren unsupervised while he went to watch a movie, which nearly got Wren eaten by the crocodiles (only reason they didn't eat her is because she turned the tables on them and actually bludgeoned them to death with a plastic bat). Honestly, at least Vicky expressed some concern when Timmy disappeared under her charge.
- The Adventures Of Willy Beamish: One of the evening events has Willy and his younger sister are the victim of a vampire babysitter. The rest of the evening involves avoiding her.
- Syphile from Drowtales in the first chapter manages to hit points 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9, with 9 being a particularly brutal version of Kill The Kitty in front of Ariel. It's little wonder that when asked what her greatest desire is, the 10 year old Ariel's response is "Kill Syphile."
- Von Pinn from Girl Genius is actually a monster assigned to take care of the children, then students, in Castle Wulfenbach. Oh, and she'd like to kill Agatha. But you know what? Gil and Tarvek call her the closest thing to a mother they ever had, and the later revelation that she's Otilia, the Muse of Protection, who was transferred into her fleshy body by Lucrezia, which had the effect of driving her insane.
- Vicky from The Fairly Oddparents. She currently provides the page image with her tamest appearance in the show (she's normally either chasing Timmy with power tools or using him as a footrest, among a thousand other tortures).
- There's a Tom and Jerry cartoon in which the cat and mouse are on the same side, protecting the baby from getting into danger, but every time the teen girl hired as the actual babysitter pauses on the phone it's to beat them up for bothering the baby they just put back into the crib. In this case the babysitter is neglectful but not mean not the baby, with Tom and Jerry being the target.
- The first season of The Simpsons had the Babysitter Bandit, a criminal who tried to rob the place. Bart, Lisa and Maggie manage to defeat her and flee to a pay phone, but Homer and Marge get home before the police arrive, untied her and let her leave. Homer even carried the bags of loot she'd stolen from them to her car.
- American Dragon Jake Long's Muggle Best Friends Spud and Trixie aren't such good babysitters for Jake's sister Haley — but she is a dragon too. A rare case of Idiot Hero Babysitter from Hell.
- A robot babysitter (voiced by Sarah Silverman) looks after Meatwad in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It's soon revealed she is psychotic and abusive.
- South Park: Stan's sister occasionally works as a babysitter, and she's terrible.
- The Amazing Spiez! episode "Operation Spy-Sitter". The kids' parents hire a babysitter named Melinda to look after them. Melinda appears to be perfect, having just the skills to help each of them. She turns out to be a he - an enemy spy named Mel who's been kidnapping WOOHP spies, and now wants the kids.
- In Kick Buttowski: Kick is chasing his sister Brianna, who has taken his trike.
Kick: You know you're not supposed to go out alone!
Brianna: Brad's watching me.
[cut to Brad lying on the sofa, picking his nose and watching TV. The TV announces Tankini Lumberjacks, and Brad cheers].
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory inexplicably features Dee Dee babysitting Mandark, in spite of the fact that they both appear to be about the same age. Dee Dee repeatedly denigrates Mandark by calling him by his real name, teases him for playing with 'dollies,' bathes him, and dresses him for bed- all the while, "Susie" grimaces in embarrassment. Ultimately, Mandark writes the experience off as a positive because his mother left instructions for him to receive a goodnight kiss before bed.
- Captain Flamingo has Meghan: a lazy teenager who just can't seem to get off the phone. She takes almost no notice of Milo and his friends' antics, and if she does notice, it's not really that big a deal. How does she react:
Meghan: You can (insert activity here) when I'm done on the phone!
- One episode of Codename: Kids Next Door has Numbuh Two's mom hires Cree, of all people, to babysit him and Tommy, who turns out to be only one of many babysitters plotting to dispose of their charges. It turns out to be All Just a Dream, but when Numbuh Two wakes up, his actual babysitter is at the door, and the episode ends there.
- Elmyra Duff from Tiny Toon Adventures is an unintentional example of this in the short, "Drooley Davey" (part of "The Wide World of Elmyra"). While she means no harm towards Davey, she is clearly too young and stupid to be a proper babysitter. Davey's parents are completely oblivious to their son being scared by Elmyra's presence and pass it off as him being excited to see her. At one point in the cartoon, Elmyra tries feeding him extremely hot milk. When Elmyra volunteers to babysit him again the following night, Davey packs his bags, says "I Quit" to his parents in a Baby Herman-esque voice, and runs away.